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Birth Pains Ahead

I’m continuing to look at Jesus’ discussion of the Last Days with His disciples.  He’s giving them a general outline of future events.

When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
Mark 13:7

The Lord warns us that peace will not occur in this age.  Wars and rumors of wars will be going on around the world.  In Luke 21:9, the Lord is recorded as adding revolutions, or literally unrest to the list.

As Christians, we’re not to be alarmed.  That word alarmed in the above verse means to cry out in fright.  We should not be afraid or surprised at these events.

The Lord doesn’t give us the illusion of a world getting better and better.  Instead, He shows us the reality of what living on this earth will be like.

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines.  These are the beginning of birth pains.
Mark 13:8

The Lord goes on to list more signs that He calls birth pangs.  He mentions famines.  This is a lack of food usually caused by greed.  In many places around the world, people starve while ships full of food are docked in the harbor and cannot be unloaded because the repressive government won’t allow it.

The number of earthquakes has been rising steadily over the last hundred years.  They cause a lot of devastation.   Many times they’re accompanied by volcanic eruptions or tsunamis.  It seems like every week we hear of new disasters.

When I was a child, we heard of natural disasters happening very infrequently.  Now it seems like every day we’re hearing about a new “worst”.  They are always reporting the worst flood, worst tornado outbreak, worst drought, or other such calamities in the news.

Jesus calls all these things the beginnings of birth pangs.  I believe the Lord is referring to the time at the end of this age where He will begin to make a distinction between the church and the world.

We’re told in the Word what our attitude should be.  We’re expecting our Lord to appear.

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.  “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”
1 Peter 3:14

The Lord doesn’t warn us of these events so that we’ll fear the future.  As we see these things happening, our faith in the Lord and in His Word should grow.  It should give us a greater urgency for winning souls into His kingdom.  We must let this knowledge transform us into the end-time church Christ will be looking for when He returns.

Question: How should believers keep from fearing the future?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on June 22, 2018 in Encouragement, Return of Christ

 

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Deception in the Last Days

In my last post, we began looking at the passage in Mark where Jesus talks about the end-times with His disciples.  He had told them that the Temple would be destroyed someday.  So they asked Him how they would know it was about to happen.

Jesus starts by giving the disciples a general overview of future history.

Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you.  Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.
Mark 13:5-6

The initial warning that Jesus gives us is about deceivers.  The word deceiver in the Greek literally means those who cause others to leave the path.  There will be those who make it their goal to remove you from the path of following Christ wholeheartedly.  Their methods may vary from time to time and from place to place, but the outcome is the same.

These imitations claim to be the Anointed One, which is what Christ means in Greek.  They want to convince you that they have the lock on God’s power or His anointing.  Many Christians are all too willing to follow these signs from revival to camp meeting to healing service.  They never seem to want to settle down under godly teaching.

Please realize that I’m not knocking the revival meeting.  I love being a part of the move of God.  What I’m saying is that every believer must be plugged-in to a local church body where they’re constantly being fed from God’s Word.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
Ephesians 4:14

We should make it our goal not to end up remaining a baby Christian our whole life.  Staying in that baby stage opens you up to deception.

Of course, some prefer it that way since they never have to take on the responsibility of ministry.  Then, they can just go from place to place getting fed their spiritual bottle.

If deception is a big part of living in the Last Days, then how do we guard ourselves?

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Hebrews 3:13

It’s through the mutual encouragement of the body of believers that we keep from being deceived.  That’s one of the benefits of being connected to a local church.

But wait!  The writer of Hebrews also said…

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:25

This verse explains why there’s such deception in the Last Days.  Believers will be attending church less and less frequently.  One of the reasons I feel we’re close to Christ’s Return is because this is an epidemic in the body of Christ right now.

Don’t open yourself to the deceptions of this age. Be an active part of a local body of believers.

Question: Why is church attendance by Christians in such decline in our generation?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2018 in Return of Christ, Revival, The Church

 

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Prepared for the Return

During the week before He went to the cross, the Lord explained to His disciples some of the things that would take place in the future.  It was sparked by the disciples as they became impressed by the elaborate buildings in Jerusalem.

As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher!  What massive stones!  What magnificent buildings!”
“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen?  And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
Mark 13:1-4

There are many in the body of Christ who love to study the end-times, and I’m one of them.  Unfortunately, there’s a tendency to stick with our pet Scriptures and never look at them in the greater context of the Bible.

The end result is a skewed idea of what is being taught.  This causes many to have a wrong view of what the Bible teaches about the Last Days.

Over the next few posts, we’ll be looking specifically at Mark’s record of how Jesus taught it to His disciples.  It’s important to keep this in mind because we are still in one of the foundational books of the New Testament.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while then you know the rationale behind this teaching.  I’m systematically going through the New Testament in the order that the Holy Spirit revealed it to the church.  Let me review what we’ve learned about the end-times so far.

We started in the book of James.  In James chapter 5 and verses 7 through 12, we saw the first mention of the return of Christ.  The emphasis was on developing the patience needed to stand until His return.  To see those posts, click here.

The next letter we studied was First Thessalonians.  In chapter 4, verse 13, through chapter 5, verse 11, was the next teaching on the return.  In that section, Paul dealt with the fact of the Resurrection Day.

On that day, the body of Christ – both the living and the dead – will be caught up to be with the Lord.  He went on to warn us how we should be living in the light of that knowledge.  He said that if we were spiritually awake, then that day would not take us by surprise.  To see those posts, click here.

The next book we looked at was Galatians.  There was no mention of the Last Days in that letter.

Finally, we arrived at Mark’s Gospel.  Other than a brief discussion with the Sadducees concerning the resurrection, this is the first mention of Christ teaching His disciples about the end-times.  Knowing the Scriptural context will equip us to better understand what’s being said.

Please be aware.  Mark is not going to give us everything Christ taught about His return.  Notice that he only records the disciples’ questions about the destruction of the temple.

We know from the other Gospels that they asked more than this.  But at this point in the growth of the church, that’s as far as the Holy Spirit wanted Mark to write about.

Now that we have this foundation firmly in place, we can move on.  Over the next few posts, I’ll be going through the teaching of Christ as recorded in this section of Scripture.  Hopefully, it will give us some new insight into the coming of the Lord.

To read my entire teaching on the Second Coming of Christ, check out my book.  The ad for it is to the right of this post.

Question: Why is the Second Coming of Christ such a popular topic among believers?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2018 in Return of Christ

 

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The Generation of Preparation

Like I said in my last post, Mark was the first view of the life of Christ given to the church.  As we begin our look at the Gospel of Mark, I’m struck by an obvious point.  The Holy Spirit didn’t think it important to start with the birth and childhood of Jesus.

Instead, He starts off with the calling of John the Baptist.  He was the prophet who was to go before the Lord and prepare Israel for their Messiah.  So Mark begins with a prophecy of Isaiah.

It is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way” –”a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
Mark 1:2-3

I’ve always seen us as the “John the Baptist Generation.”  I believe that we’re the ones who are preparing the final harvest of souls before the second coming of Christ.  That makes his calling and ours very similar.

First, I see that the Lord didn’t arrive the first time, without a messenger announcing His coming.  That should be the job of the church right now.  Preparing the world to meet their King and Judge.

We are the messengers of Christ.  It’s our job to let the world know what Jesus has done for them.

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:20

This is our ministry in a nutshell.  Everything else is a side issue.  The saving work of Jesus Christ should be our main focus.

Another thing I see is that there’s preparation involved.  Mark uses two different words in these verses.  The word, prepare, in verse 2 means a thorough preparation of all the equipment needed for an assignment.  We need to be equipped for our role in these last days.

The word used in verse 3 is a bit different.  It means to get ready.  It speaks of the internal preparation that’s needed in advance of the Lord’s coming.

There’s no way around it; the church needs to be prepared for Christ’s return.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17

It concerns me that so few people attend a Bible Study these days.  I’m glad for the attendance at worship services on the weekends, but that’s not where you’re equipped.  There needs to be something more in depth – where you can interact with the teacher.

Right along with this, I’ve found our generation to be the most Biblically illiterate in all of Christianity.  Simply put, many believers have no idea what the Bible even teaches.  I’ve heard people tell me what they think the Scripture says because they heard it on a TV show or in a movie.  We need the foundation of true Biblical teaching.

The final thing I see is that John was a voice crying in the wilderness.  He was away from all the trappings of society.  John was different.

Why do we feel the need to blend seamlessly into our culture?  If there’s no difference between our lifestyle and theirs – why do they even need a Savior?

There’s a fear that no one will listen to us if we’re too different.  I think that the opposite is true.  Only when there’s an observable difference will the world want what we have.

We belong to a different kingdom.  We’re to be in the world but not of it.  Let’s truly pick up the assignment of being messengers in this final generation.

Question: What’s your message to the world?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2017 in Return of Christ, Revival, The Gospel

 

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Armed and Ready

I’ve been posting about the last days as described by Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians. My last post was about how we need to live as we see the end in view. Paul continues to share about it.

But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:8-11

He tells us to put on faith and love as a breastplate. As you know, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I believe that this is the oil and the lamp that we’re to keep burning. These are the two non-negotiable parts to serving God.

In this verse Paul is clearly referring to our spiritual armor. He even makes mention of the helmet of salvation. But instead of assigning righteousness as the breastplate, he says that faith and love are used in that role. Paul is telling us that it’s the combination of our faith and our love working together that completes our righteousness.

According to Scripture, without faith it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), and without love your faith is worthless (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). You have to use both of these spiritual commodities. You can’t live for God without faith and love.

And so, these fruit need to be evident in all of our good works. Everything we do for the Lord has to spring from faith and love. Paul is in total agreement with the teaching of the Lord as found in the Gospels.

Finally, we must have the hope, or literally, the expectation of salvation as a helmet. We have to expect the salvation of God. We know what’s going to happen. We know that God is going to rescue us, so we might as well live like it.

Paul said that we’re not appointed to wrath. According to the Lord’s own words, wrath was not going to fall until the Last Day. Before it fell, however, Jesus said that He would gather up His elect to Himself. All of this happens on the last day of the age, according to Jesus. The Church will be taken to safety first, and then the wrath of God will fall.

It’s clear from both the teaching of Christ Himself and Paul the Apostle that God did not appoint us to wrath. What Paul is saying here is that we who are alive in the last days – who see the signs approaching as labor pains – must not get worried as people who don’t have any hope.

We must realize that we have the helmet of salvation on. We’re not appointed to wrath, so when The Day gets here, we’re going to be protected.

Don’t worry about the future, even though you see problems coming. Be prepared. Be self-controlled. Be alert. Be working for God, but don’t be afraid.

The last thing we need to remember is to continue to encourage one another, to build one another up and to exhort one another as, in fact, we should be doing.

That’s what being a part of the church is all about. We must help each other in areas of weakness. It’s only as we work together that we’ll gain the victory.

Question: How does your future hope affect your walk with Christ today?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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Living as Light

I’ve been posting about Paul’s view of the Second Coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians. We understand that the Resurrection Day is the great hope of the church. At this point in history, we can see it approaching very quickly. But our understanding of Christ’s return is not just about the future.

But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.
1 Thessalonians 5:4-7

The word night speaks of a segment of time – but we’re eternal. Because we live in the eternal realm, we are of the day.

Darkness speaks of a place – but we’re seated with Christ in heavenly places; that’s the kingdom of light. So the night and the darkness is not our time and place.

Paul also tells us the attitude we need in the last days. He says that we’re to be alert and self-controlled. The literal meaning of these words are awake and sober. We can’t be in a spiritual stupor and be victorious as we approach the end of the age.

We need to be what we’re called to be. It’s not our destiny to blend in and become part of the whole. It’s our calling to show that there’s a different way to live.

John the Baptist is an example to us of how to minister to the world while living in the Kingdom of God.

I believe that because of our end-time ministry, we are the “John the Baptist Generation”. There were some interesting prophecies recorded in Scripture about John that I believe can be applied to us.

“…because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
Luke 1:78-79

Our generation must be a light in the darkness. There has never been a darker time in the modern world. Unless you’re living with your head in the sand, this is an undeniable truth.

We need to understand what being the light entails. It’s obvious that light gets the attention in the dark. There’s no getting around that. We’re not called to just blend into the background.

This is because a light stands in direct opposition to the darkness. There cannot be any two kingdoms that are more opposite than the Kingdom of God and the world.

We are not a part of this society. We live here, work here, and have to interact with those around us. We need to be loving, productive, and contributing to the welfare of our community. But the fact is we don’t BELONG here.

It’s time for us to live up to this calling. The world is desperate to hear the message that’s been entrusted to us. We need to stop chasing their dreams and live for Christ with an urgency that reflects the times we live in.

This generation of the church needs to grow up so that we can function as we must at this time in history. Be equipped with the spiritual weaponry. Be listening and hearing a Word from God. Then continue to walk in that word.

Finally, if we do these things we will be the light that will draw people to Christ. We are the John the Baptist Generation.

Questions: How much light is the church producing right now? How can that light be increased?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2017 in Ministry, Return of Christ, Revival

 

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Not Surprised

I’m looking at Paul’s teaching in his first letter to the Thessalonians. In this section, he’s answering their questions about the Second Coming of Christ. Now, Paul is going to move on to answer the next question posed by the church – when is it all going to happen?

Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

Paul’s talking here about those that aren’t prepared. Jesus used different words to convey the same meaning. The Lord said that to those not ready, He was going to come like a thief in the night. But He also said that the saints weren’t going to be caught unprepared. Even the way Paul describes it shows this truth.

Paul said that it was going to come suddenly like labor pains on a pregnant woman. Please realize that most women make it to the hospital in time. A mother-to-be knows that there’s a baby on the way. She even knows, within a few weeks, when the baby will arrive.

The woman can feel that there are things happening in her body. Sometimes they can even say, “It’s only a day or two now.” Why? Because she can feel within her that something is going on.

And then finally, when the labor pains arrive, she knows that it’s time to get to the hospital. She can feel them mounting. She knew what to expect, and it didn’t take her by surprise. Very few women experience labor so quickly that they don’t make it to the hospital.

That’s what it’s going to be like for us. We know what to expect. We’ll not be taken by surprise. The labor pains may come upon the world quickly and unexpectedly, but the delivery – the coming of the Lord – will not be a surprise to the church.

But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.
1 Thessalonians 5:4

That’s why we, as believers, should not be worried or anxious about all we see happening around us. We have the light of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. We know what’s coming.

We should be living for Christ with the knowledge that God is bringing all things to the fulfillment of His will. This should cause us to be excited about the future, not worried.

We know how the Book ends – WE WIN!!

Question: What is your anticipation level when you think about the return of the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

NOTE – If you want a more detailed look at the Second Coming of Christ, then click here to read about my new book.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2017 in Encouragement, Faith, Return of Christ

 

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